Mechanics

BALL JOINT REMOVAL

1995 Chevrolet Van • 221,000 miles

The other day I leant my dad my old chevy g20 van while I replaced a transmission in his truck. Taking about a week cause I had to find one in the price range he had. But when I got it back the front passenger wheel looks like its bowed in up at the top and a "squeak" comes from that side when you hit a bump. Also it goes to the right when you brake now too.I jacked up the tire and put my hands at the 12 and 6 position and it moved a little bit. So I think it's the upper ball joint. I have two questions. What are the instructions to getting this out/replacing. And can aggressive/ improper driving ruin ball joints? Or do they just go out randomly? Cause this is my daily driver and I had no problems what so ever until I got it back
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Gm262
August 27, 2012.



You wouldn't be driving it if a ball joint separated. A worn lower control arm bushing would be more likely. Hard driving is not going to damage a ball joint exactly but it can hasten the failure of one that is already showing wear. Your best bet is to have the steering and suspension systems inspected at a tire and alignment shop. They can identify worn parts that you don't feel or notice yet. They will also "read" the tire wear patterns for clues to other problems.


Caradiodoc
Aug 27, 2012.
I took the wheel off and you can see the upper ball joint moving back and forth when you grab the disc now. So it hasn't completely failed yet, but it's on it's way out. The tire on that side is wearing more towards the inside too. I just want to know how hard it is to change one, seeing as I've never done one before. I'd much rather do it myself, cause its cheaper for one. And I don't really trust the mechanics around here very much


Tiny
Gm262
Aug 27, 2012.
The original upper is riveted in and can be rather frustrating to remove. At work we had a very large air chisel that made quick work of those rivets by shearing off the tops then punching them out. Regular air chisels will get the job done too but it will take longer and you'll want to wear ear protection. If I was to attempt one at home I would use an angle grinder to remove the heads, then I'd try a hammer and punch to pop the rivets out but understand they fatten out when they're pounded in and won't push out easily.

The replacements come with four bolts and nuts. If your old joint is a replacement already it will have those bolts instead of rivets. Bolts are easier to remove.

If the van was in perfect alignment before a ball joint developed sideways slop, you do not have to get it realigned when you replace the lower one because you're taking out a ball that was in the center of a housing that was in a round hole, so the new ball and stud will be exactly where it was before. That's not the case with the upper because it has that wing where the four bolts go through. No two upper ball joints are ever exactly the same, and there's a little wiggle room for you to move it around before you tighten the bolts. For that reason, even though you'll be putting the wheel back real close to where it was, the alignment should still be checked.

Without getting too complicated, many steering systems will cause the wheel / tire to turn left or right when something changes that makes it lean in or out. That provides a clue in the form of the steering wheel moving off-center when driving on a straight road. That doesn't happen on your van. If you look at the outer tie rod end from in front of the van, you'll see that it is exactly the same height off the ground as the lower ball joint. That means that when the upper ball joints lets the wheel tip in on top, the relationship between the steering arm on the spindle and the tie rod end doesn't change. That means no change in steering wheel position. I'm just mentioning that so you know that steering wheel position can't be used as a clue. However, depending on which way the upper ball joint is letting the wheel sit, there is going to be a pull one way when you let go of the steering wheel and it may be off-center to counteract that pull. Technically counteracting a pull is different that an off-center steering wheel. They're both off-center, but in one case you're tugging and holding it there and in the other it sits there by itself. I realize that's more than you care to know, but the bottom line is have it inspected and aligned when you're done.

Be sure to follow the torque specs for those four bolts too. It will be listed on the sheet that comes with the new ball joint. You can't rely on common sense either because those bolts will snap very easily from what feels right. If you do snap one you can use regular hardened bolts from the hardware store. They will withstand a higher torque.


Caradiodoc
Aug 27, 2012.
So for the upper ball joints I don't have to have a ball joint press? Cause that's what I've been told before, I wanted to know that before I get it half way apart and find out that


Tiny
Gm262
Aug 27, 2012.
Nope. Look at the new one. This photo is from rockauto. Com. You do need a press for the lower ball joint, but often the hole on the lower control arm is stretched and the new ball joint falls out. A couple of tack welds with a wire feed welder takes care of that.


Caradiodoc
Aug 28, 2012.
I took out the cotter pin and the bolt out of the steering knuckle, but the ball joint and control arm still don't want to budge at all. Am I missing something? Or is this normal


Tiny
Gm262
Aug 28, 2012.
Any chance you can post a photo of the bolt you're referring to? You don't even have to remove the cotter pin if it's stuck. Just bend it down and use a box wrench or 6-point socket to shear it off with the nut. After the nut is off you can smack the top of the spindle to shock the tapered stud loose. Don't do that until the nut is off because you need those parts wedged together to hold the stud from spinning.

There's no need to remove the control arm but if it helps, remove the four rivets first, then the nut. That way the spindle will hold the control arm from bouncing around while you work on it.


Caradiodoc
Aug 28, 2012.
Its the nut that goes on the spindle itself that I said I removed, but after I removed it, it won't budge at all. I'd post a photo but I'm on my phone right now (2 car pros really needs a iPhone app!) Ha


Tiny
Gm262
Aug 28, 2012.
If you mean that big nut the cotter pin went through, that tapered stud is supposed to be real tight. There is a lot of force on that ball joint as you bounce over bumpy roads and the nut alone would never hold it without the help of the wedging action of the taper.

Once the nut is all the way off, bang on the spindle right next to that tapered stud. The shock from the blows is what will rattle it loose.

As a point of interest, if you ever find one of those tapered studs is loose before you bang on it, the hole in the spindle will be wobbled out too. When that happens the spindle must be replaced. With a stretched out hole the entire stud will not rest on the sides of the hole and form a solid fit. That will allow the stud to bend and snap. You can assume you have junk unless you have to work up a sweat to get that stud out.

Also, if you have the van supported under the frame or cross member, you'll see the suspension is being forced down by the coil spring and the upper control arm is squishing the rubber bump stops. When you break that taper the upper control arm is going to go flying up and the lower control arm is going to drop down real hard along with the spindle. That spring is strong enough to hold up the weight of the van. That's how much force is going to be released. There's a couple of things you can do to make the job safer. The van should always be supported on jack stands under the frame, then put the floor jack under the lower control arm. It can be a little below it. The idea is to catch the lower control arm and stop it from dropping all the way down. If it did, you'd have to use the floor jack to raise it back up when you want to put the nut on the new ball joint. Also, once the old nut is all the way off, I like to run it back on about three turns by hand, then break the tapered stud loose. The nut will catch the flying parts and contain them. All you'll get is a nice loud pop to surprise you and nothing else. At that point you can jack the lower control arm up just enough so you can take the nut off. Do that by hand. If the nut won't turn by hand, there's still pressure on it.


Caradiodoc
Aug 28, 2012.